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Best alpha binocular for ageing glasses wearer? (3 Viewers)

Thanks to all for the further advice, suggestions and valuable information. I’m particularly grateful for the links to other useful resources. I hadn’t come across the Pina Collection before and notice that two of my current binocular - both of the Zeiss actually - have shorter eye relief in the stated value, and lower than many of the other Alphas - this is something I’ll check for carefully during any tests. I can almost see to the field stop with the Zeiss 7x42 and its generous FOV also compensates to a degree. The two Nikons are definitely better in this respect, and they are sharper to the edge too. If the 8x42 had a wider field it would probably be my first choice, so it’s a shame the later EDG models aren’t available to test.

I’m looking forward to some testing, hopefully tomorrow, and will report back.
 
I promised I’d give an update and today I spent a delightful hour carefully comparing a number of alpha binoculars. Big credit to Viking Optical in Halesworth for being so accommodating. Suffice to say, I had a lot of fun and it didn’t quite go as I expected. The contenders were:

Zeiss SF 8x32; Zeiss SF 8x42; Swarovski NL 8x32; Swarovski NL 8x42; Swarovski EL 8.5x42; Leica Noctovid 8x42

With the benefit of hindsight, I should also have tried the Zeiss SFL, but unfortunately I forgot!

They were all a step up from my existing binoculars, but without going into too much detail, I discounted two relatively quickly - the Swarovski EL and the SF 8x32. They were good, but somehow lacked the wow factor of the others - I concluded the difference compared to my existing binoculars wasn’t quite enough to justify the upgrade cost.

Of the others, in terms of general handling, the SF 8x42 suited me best - I liked their lighter weight and wonderful balance in the hand. The NLs, once I’d got used to their shape, came a close second, I liked the lighter weight of the 32, but preferred holding the 42 - it was just a better fit in my hand. The Noctovid felt dense and heavy in the hand - even though the NL 8x42 is actually a similar weight - but was also pretty comfortable, although I’m slightly concerned about the weight of both.

In terms of the user interface, I liked the eyepieces of the Zeiss slightly less than the other two 8x42s. I found the eye cup adjustment and good eye position was achieved more easily with the NLs and the Noctovid. On all, I set the eyepieces one step out. Focusers were all extremely good and I didn’t really have a preference - all fell readily to hand and I found them all quick and precise to use.

Optical quality was the area where I was perhaps most surprised. I found the view through the two NLs simply jaw-dropping. I hadn’t expected to be so impressed. The Leica was extremely good too. The SF 42, while excellent, struck me as very slightly behind the others, the view just a little less vivid, natural and brilliant, and perhaps a fraction less sharp, although all were impressive. Could sample variation be a factor? The Leica and NLs seemed better suited to glasses wearing and I had that satisfying experience of not feeling I was looking through glass. The main distinguishing feature being the incredible wide field of the NLs and their wide field of sharpness. The 8x32 NL seemed extraordinarily bright for a 32, almost defying physics, although I slightly preferred the 42. The Noctovid offered a relaxed, easy view of great clarity, but its FOV is relatively similar to my existing binoculars, so was slightly less immersive. I thought the NLs had more ‘pop’ if I can use such a term - I felt like I could see everything. After using the NLs, going back to my wife’s Nikon HG 8x32 was something of a sobering experience.

However, in one area, the NLs came up short - flare when looking towards the light. I found it disappointingly easy to get flair issues when the sun was striking the front element of the NLs, even from relatively oblique angles. The 8x32 was particularly bad - enough to put me off - it was less of a problem with the 42, although it did sometimes occur. Getting my eye position right seemed to help. I’ve since seen images on this forum of this issue which match what I saw. The SF suffered much less from these issues, and the Leica not at all.

I’d expected to come away with the SF 8x42 top, but the NL 42 surpassed it in most metrics, apart from weight and flare control. The Leica was also excellent but that NL view… it was definitely the best for me.

I can probably accept the weight, but how to deal with the flair? I remember a former RSPB colleague who made some lens hoods for his binoculars by cutting up some bicycle tyre inner tubes to create two short cylinders of rubber that he slid over over the front, shielding the objective lens - it sounds ridiculous but was surprisingly effective. It seems insane to spend so much on a binocular and then to have to devise such a Heath Robinson solution though!
 
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The big three manufacturers should thread the front of their binoculars, so we can use screw-in lens shades.

I, for one, would buy a pair, and use them.

As an aside, the price difference between the NL and the SF in 8X32 is currently more than US $200.
 
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The big three manufacturers should thread the front of their binoculars, so we can use screw-in lens shades.

I, for one, would buy a pair, and use them.

As an aside, the price difference between the NL and the SF in 8X32 is currently more than US $200.
And between the NV and NL 8x42 £452 in the UK. Post 23 an excellent personal account, given just one hour. You'd have to factor in the current reported issue with Swarovski armouring of course.
 
I promised I’d give an update and today I spent a delightful hour carefully comparing a number of alpha binoculars. Big credit to Viking Optical in Halesworth for being so accommodating. Suffice to say, I had a lot of fun and it didn’t quite go as I expected. The contenders were:

Zeiss SF 8x32; Zeiss SF 8x42; Swarovski NL 8x32; Swarovski NL 8x42; Swarovski EL 8.5x42; Leica Noctovid 8x42

With the benefit of hindsight, I should also have tried the Zeiss SFL, but unfortunately I forgot!

They were all a step up from my existing binoculars, but without going into too much detail, I discounted two relatively quickly - the Swarovski EL and the SF 8x32. They were good, but somehow lacked the wow factor of the others - I concluded the difference compared to my existing binoculars wasn’t quite enough to justify the upgrade cost.

Of the others, in terms of general handling, the SF 8x42 suited me best - I liked their lighter weight and wonderful balance in the hand. The NLs, once I’d got used to their shape, came a close second, I liked the lighter weight of the 32, but preferred holding the 42 - it was just a better fit in my hand. The Noctovid felt dense and heavy in the hand - even though the NL 8x42 is actually a similar weight - but was also pretty comfortable, although I’m slightly concerned about the weight of both.

In terms of the user interface, I liked the eyepieces of the Zeiss slightly less than the other two 8x42s. I found the eye cup adjustment and good eye position was achieved more easily with the NLs and the Noctovid. On all, I set the eyepieces one step out. Focusers were all extremely good and I didn’t really have a preference - all fell readily to hand and I found them all quick and precise to use.

Optical quality was the area where I was perhaps most surprised. I found the view through the two NLs simply jaw-dropping. I hadn’t expected to be so impressed. The Leica was extremely good too. The SF 42, while excellent, struck me as very slightly behind the others, the view just a little less vivid, natural and brilliant, and perhaps a fraction less sharp, although all were impressive. Could sample variation be a factor? The Leica and NLs seemed better suited to glasses wearing and I had that satisfying experience of not feeling I was looking through glass. The main distinguishing feature being the incredible wide field of the NLs and their wide field of sharpness. The 8x32 NL seemed extraordinarily bright for a 32, almost defying physics, although I slightly preferred the 42. The Noctovid offered a relaxed, easy view of great clarity, but its FOV is relatively similar to my existing binoculars, so was slightly less immersive. I thought the NLs had more ‘pop’ if I can use such a term - I felt like I could see everything. After using the NLs, going back to my wife’s Nikon HG 8x32 was something of a sobering experience.

However, in one area, the NLs came up short - flare when looking towards the light. I found it disappointingly easy to get flair issues when the sun was striking the front element of the NLs, even from relatively oblique angles. The 8x32 was particularly bad - enough to put me off - it was less of a problem with the 42, although it did sometimes occur. Getting my eye position right seemed to help. I’ve since seen images on this forum of this issue which match what I saw. The SF suffered much less from these issues, and the Leica not at all.

I’d expected to come away with the SF 8x42 top, but the NL 42 surpassed it in most metrics, apart from weight and flare control. The Leica was also excellent but that NL view… it was definitely the best for me.

I can probably accept the weight, but how to deal with the flair? I remember a former RSPB colleague who made some lens hoods for his binoculars by cutting up some bicycle tyre inner tubes to create two short cylinders of rubber that he slid over over the front, shielding the objective lens - it sounds ridiculous but was surprisingly effective. It seems insane to spend so much on a binocular and then to have to devise such a Heath Robinson solution though!
That was an excellent summation of those specific binoculars , and I had almost the exact same experience with them. I will say I had a better overall impression of the EL’s though. I did like the NL’s a tad better than the SF’s, but the SF’s have that lighter weight. I also choose the EL over the SF’s in the 32’s. I’d also say that a little more time with them, where you would see more of there strengths amd weaknesses under more lighting conditions really does help with a decision.

The thing is , if that glare issue in the NL is a consistent annoyance to you, it will always be there. If the NV checks all the other boxes except the wider FOV, id bet that you’d never mis the FOV of the NL, but you’d always be annoyed by the NL glare. I do see a bit more glare in the NL than the NV under more conditions, but it is not a deal breaker for me. That’s why sometimes it takes more time under the sun to put them through there paces. For me I prefer the NV’s in 8x42 and prefer the NL’s in 10x42, go figure.

Paul
 
but the SF’s have that lighter weight
Yea, on paper, (see that data I sent this AM), its 2oz, 42 to 42 Paul. Even if written specs are a bit off from actual, and I have reported on this with the 32 versions, that difference in weight is so over powered by the other considerations its not worth mentioning.
 
Yea, on paper, (see that data I sent this AM), its 2oz, 42 to 42 Paul. Even if written specs are a bit off from actual, and I have reported on this with the 32 versions, that difference in weight is so over powered by the other considerations its not worth mentioning.
Not for me, but to a lot of people a few oz’s makes a big difference to them. At this point in my life I wouldn’t choose a binocular just for an oz here or there. With that being said the SF’s feel lighter to me, it could be balance , not sure. I agree with you other factors can play more of a role.
 
I wanted to provide an update - not least out of gratitude for all the useful advice I received. I few days later I went back to the shop for a second look. This time I just tried the NL and SF 8x42, and also the 8x40SFL which I’d forgotten about the first time.

The weather was overcast making the differences slightly harder to discern, but they were still there. The SFL really impressed me - excellent vivid colours, very good brightness and sharpness, and the field of view was also excellent - all in a lighter, cheaper package. I hadn’t expected the SFL to be quite as impressive as it was and, for a moment I, wavered - a saving of near £1,000 is very significant after all.

However, the other voice in my head said that while we’re talking marginal gains, the NL 8x42 was (for me at least) the best overall, both optically, and in terms of comfort, I would never do this again and I would always wonder what I was missing if I bought something else. Long story short - I came home with the NL.

I’ve used them daily over the last two weeks in a wide range of different situations. From scanning my local estuary for waders and egrets, watching hobbies chasing dragonflies over coastal wetlands, searching scrub for migrant warblers, even watching an hummingbird hawkmoth feeding in the evening twilight of our garden. In a nutshell, the NL 8x42 is everything I could possibly want in a binocular. With more time to set them up more precisely I‘ve had no problem with glare - it’s a complete non-issue for me now - and have never enjoyed such good, relaxed viewing with my glasses on - the days of struggle are over. Special mention should go to the focuser - i find it precise and quick in use (much better than some faster focusers I’ve used) - and the wide sharp field is such an advantage when following small actively feeding birds in bushes and dense vegetation. Yes, I’m smitten, even if my bank balance now looks distinctly sickly! The NL 8x42 is fabulous.

Thanks again to all for your help.
 
There's a worthwhile argument that poorer vision needs all the help it can get,

I have often used this argument to justify getting new, and better, optics; but I am starting to question its accuracy.
The opposing argument is "the chain is only as strong as its weakest link"

Do alphas work that MUCH better with poor vision?

edj
 
If your vision is worse than a “more affordable” glass, how can a better glass make you see better?

That doesn’t make sense.

Only if your vision is better than the cheap glass will a top glass improve things. How much still depends on how good your vision is to begin with.

We get in spirited arguments over whether alphas are really better, which is kind of silly, since it ultimately depends on how well the observer can see.
 
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Interesting topic. Generally the rules are:
*The shorter focal length eyepiece - the shorter ER
*The higher magnification - the shorter ER.
*The wider AFOV - the shorter ER.
Therefore almost always lower powered optics provide longer ER within the same series.
8x42 practically always have longer ER than 8x32 and 10x42 (because these use shorter focal length oculars).
I am still waiting for the 8x30/32 binocular which can provide fully sufficient ER for my eyeglasses use. The new Zeiss SFL 8x30 can according to what I read be the best ever in this configuration. I am very hopeful.
 
Do alphas work that MUCH better with poor vision?

edj
Something I've theorised about as I resist wearing glasses (which I have for driving):
If for example, my aging eyes can no longer accurately focus objects further than 20m away, a binocular will do that for me and a premium quality ought to produce better results than a cheaper & less sharp.
If however my aging eyes have for example, floaters and sinkers, I reckoned logically a premium view would make them more noticeable (and annoying) whereas a less sharp binocular will perhaps reduce their effects, blurring their effects.

In practice, it would seem that if I'm properly focused on the subject rather than looking for faults, the premium sharp focus is important to me, whereas the my brain will ignore floaters and sinkers as they generally do without binoculars.
 
This is my first post so apologies for a long-winded question. I’m interested to know your thoughts on the best alpha binocular for use with glasses on.

Here’s the context. After over 40+ years of regular birding I’m finally at a point where I need to wear glasses all the time. I’m long sighted, but even my distant vision is noticeably less sharp than it used to be - the curse of ageing and I guess it’ll only get worse... Adapting to birding with my glasses on has been a pleasure and a pain. It’s good that things are sharp again, but it’s clear some binoculars are better suited to use with glasses on than others. I have access to four good binoculars and would rank them as follows for glasses-on use:

Zeiss 7x42 classic BGATP* and Nikon 8x42 HGL = equal 1st.
Nikon 8x32 HG = 2nd
Zeiss 8x32 FL Victory = 3rd.

I mainly use the Zeiss 7x42 and love the wide field view but, while good, none of these binoculars would be today considered ‘state of the art’, so do you think I would gain much if I were to buy one of the current alpha models? A key consideration here is pragmatism. Much as I’d like to buy the best available, I’m conscious that my eyesight will only get worse from here - will I get the benefit from splashing the cash?
Aging isn't a curse, some people never get to experience it.
 

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